Scenes from South Stack, 1833 and 2014

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“Amongst the auxiliaries which art has contributed to give interest to Holyhead, the most picturesque and not the least important is the lighthouse, erected upon the South Stack. This singular Pharos stands upon a rocky island, the surface of which is elevated one hundred and twenty feet above the sea. It is separated from the mainland by a deep chasm, across which a chain suspension foot-bridge is thrown, from the mural cliff on the land side to the island. The descent from the top of the cliff to the bridge is effected by many flights of steps, cut in the front of the rock. The transit of the bridge is rather a nervous ceremony, and the fine craggs of serpentine rock, which overhand the gulf, are unequalled in the mineral kingdom, for variety of pattern and brilliancy of colouring …

… The sea cliffs of Holyhead mountain, presented to the South Stack Island, are beautifully bold, precipitous, and finely tinted with a variety of colours. Here innumerable sea birds, trusting to the dizzy and dangerous position of their dwellings for protection against human invasion, build their nests. But the ingenuity of man is only to be equalled by his courage, an assertion very fully substantiated by the trade of nest hunted pursued along these dangerous cliffs.”

From Scenes in North Wales: With Historical Illustrations, Legends, and Biographical Notices, by George Newenham Wright, published in 1833 by T. T. and J. Tegg. Accessed via Google here.

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Pictures by Katrin Schönig

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2 thoughts on “Scenes from South Stack, 1833 and 2014

  1. Phil Scraton

    One of the finest sea paddles in Wales, in fact anywhere off our islands. We set off from Soldiers’ Point to round North Stack just as the overfalls were running at their height, losing sight of each other for what seemed minutes on end. I think this was one of Chris Hughes’ first encounters with the big water – it was exhilarating – one of those experiences you don’t want to end. It looks so calm in Katrin’s final photograph (above). Also in her photograph is the massive cave, the Cathedral. Kayaking to the back shelf the view along Gogarth’s cliffs to South Stack and the Irish Sea beyond is magical. A quick sandwich and off across Gogarth Bay. One small pebble beach lies at the back of the bay, inaccessible from land other than by abseil. Crossing beneath Gogarth cliffs my neck ached, attempting to identify the routes scaled by climbers enjoying the beautiful sea-cliffs. As ever, there was a rope of three on the outstanding and always spectacularly precarious A Dream of White Horses, first climbed by Ed Drummond and Dave Pearce and fully deserving of its legendary status. We circumnavigated South Stack watched by the many walkers and day-trippers standing on the multiple steps, rightly more interested in the wonderful birds nesting on the high cliffs … we paddled on beneath Elin’s Tower (Twr Elin), now a not-to-be-missed RSPB information centre. From beneath this point just two weeks ago we watched a Peregrine Falcon feed its young chick. Leaving the Stacks we headed into Abraham’s Bosom, now more routine paddling. The hours had passed and the tide was running again as we headed for the final outcrops, nipping between the rocks, catching the eddies, enjoying the last moments of a memorable trip – beaching on the golden sands of Porth Dafarch. Here the day’s sandcastles were looking the worse for wear, the litter bins overflowed with the remains of picnics, a barbecue was underway and the ice cream van did steady trade. Dragging our kayaks up the beach, unzipping our wet-suits and reflecting on our adventures we occupied adjacent worlds sharing the same space – as it should be …

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